I have a friend who’s currently dealing with “pain behind the knee”, and it reminded me of the time I had this problem high school. Our coach had us doing “plyometrics” stuff– jumping through ropes and over hurdles. I always had a tendency to “tweak” things when I did anything supplemental for my lower body– this is why even today, I’m very careful with anything I do outside of running. Nothing more frustrating than to randomly tweak something while NOT running! I believe the muscle I tweaked was the popliteus muscle— it’s a very small muscle behind the knee, and it’s very difficult to target for stretching/rehab…. but you certainly feel it if it’s tweaked and then trying to push off while running!
I went for 2 months with this frustrating pain, before I finally found a useful article on the internet– fortunately, this was when the internet was around (about early 2000). I’ve kept the article ever since because it helped me and was informative! Here’s the article:
“The most effective treatment to an injured popliteus is manually applied trigger point therapy and ultrasound. While many muscles respond well to self-applied rubbing or kneading, the popliteus muscle should be approached with care. It overlies the popliteal fossa which is loaded with sensitive blood vessels and nerves where damage via too much pressure is possible.
The popliteus muscle is slightly stretched when the hamstrings are stretched. To strengthen the muscle, sit on a high chair with your legs dangling off the ground. Using elastic tubing anchored at one end, wrap the other end around the inside of your foot and rotate your foot and lower leg inward. Use low resistance and high repetition, remembering that this is not a powerful muscle.
The part highlighted above is what I did to get over the problem. I basically sat on a table with my legs dangling, wrapped a theraband around my foot and tied it around my knee, and then I tried to move my foot in such a way until I felt like it was “stretching” the popliteus behind my knee– I definitely felt it in this muscle, so I knew it was tweaked! I did this exercise for 2 days…. and it was gone! It was the best feeling in the world to have easily fixed the problem.
I should add that this isn’t the sole cause of “pain behind the knee”. There could be any number of things wrong, whether with the hamstrings, calf, IT band, sciatic nerve, a cyst, or even structurally in the knee (~miniscus). It’s worth a shot though, trying the exercise above, meeting with a PT, or getting manual therapy.
If you ever experience this problem, or know someone else who does…. pass along this tip, and hopefully it helps others!
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